Web Analytics FAQ

answering your questions

From basic questions to more advanced concerns, we provide this handy list of questions and answers about web analytics.

1. What is a visit?
2. What is a bounced visit?
3. What is a bounce rate?
4. What is a hit?
5. What is a Page View?
6. What do average pages per visit tell me?
7. What is a referrer?
8. What is Direct Traffic?
9. What are spiders/bots?
10. Why do I need to monitor New vs. Returning Visitors?
11. What is Reach? How do I calculate and what is it telling me?
12. What is a conversion?
13. What is a conversion rate?
14. What is a cookie?
15. What’s the difference between 1st and 3rd party cookies?
16. What is an A/B Test?
17. What is an A/B Split Test?
18. What is a Path Analysis?
19. What is a Scenario Analysis?
20. What’s the difference between Organic Search and Paid Search?
21. What is the difference between SEO and SEM?
22. What is a Content Group/Sub-Group?
23. What’s the difference between Most Recent Campaign and Same Visit Campaign?
24. What is an Ad Impression?
25. What is a click-through rate and what is it telling me?
26. What is a Page Tag?
27. What is a META Tag?

A visit is counted when a unique visitor to a website conducts activity measured in the form of page views, regardless of duration, so long as the duration of inactivity between sequential page views does not exceed a predetermined time (typically 30 minutes).

A visit to a website that only involved the viewing of a single page.

The number of single page visits/total number of visits. This percentage tells you what percentages of visitors are not engaging. The higher the bounce rate, the less sticky the site.

A hit is essentially a server request for an asset (page, image file, etc.). Many hits will make up the rendering of a web page.

A page view definition is relative to the site and how pages are defined within the site. Web Analytics toolsets should align with the website’s page view definition. Typically, pages include files ending with extensions like jhtml, html, jsp, asp, etc. However, given the emergence of Rich Interactive Applications (RIA), such as Flash, the definition has the potential to expand well beyond traditional definitions. This accentuates the need for business/IT to identify what, on their site, constitutes a page.

The average pages per visit metric are a good indicator of how sticky your site is, or how well engaged the average visitor is. The higher the average, the higher the degree of engagement.

A referrer can be captured at the site or page level but the definition is essentially the same. A referrer tells you where a visitor was just before they came to your site or a specific page on your site.

Referrer information can get skewed through factors such as:

  • Redirects
  • Direct Traffic (Where no referrer is listed)

Direct Traffic represents traffic to your website where no referrer is indicated. Examples include:

  • Visitors who type a website URL directly into their browsers address bar
  • Visitors who access a site via a saved bookmark or favorite

Spiders/bots are programs configured to surf your website. Spiders/bots are usually attributed to Search Engines that are leveraging these programs to gather information on your website to incorporate into their Organic Search Ranking efforts.

New Visitors are a good high level indicator of how well you’re marketing efforts (online/offline) are at attracting visitors to your site.

Returning visitors are a good high level indicator of gauging how well your site is a retaining the visitors who come to your site.

Reach is a measurement where visits to a page are compared to total site visits.

Reach = Page Visits/Total Site Visits

Calculated Reach can tell you if a particular page is meeting expectations. Combined with knowledge of your site architecture, Reach can give you insight into how deep into your site your audience is getting.

A conversion is defined by the marketing team as a desired outcome. With websites, example conversions events include:

  • Shopping cart completion
  • Completed registration
  • Signing up for a newsletter

Conversion rates tell you how well you’re doing in driving visitors to your defined conversion events.

Conversion Rate = # Conversions/Unique Visitors

A cookie is a text file placed on a visitor’s computer that is typically used for identifying visitors to a website. The visitor identification method, for reputable companies, will not include personal identifiable data, but rather data that will ensure you are recognized as a unique website visitor.

A 1st party cookie is issued from the domain of the site you are visiting.
A 3rd party cookie is issued from a domain other than the one you are visiting.

1st party cookies are the preferred method for identifying visitors due to the high rejection rate of 3rd party cookies (On average, 25% of web users have browsers setting to reject 3rd party cookies).

A/B Tests are performed where two site assets are compared. Typically, one asset is identified as the control and one as the test. The test asset will be presented to a sampling of your website audience. For example, an 80/20 A/B test would present the Control 80% of the time and the Test 20% of the time.

A/B testing might be performed to test a new look and feel to an existing page. The control would be the existing page and the test would be the new page. The 80 /20 split is a safe way to test in the event that the test page is not well-received; this way, you’re not impacting 80% of the pages visitors.

A split test is an A/B test but performed using a 50/50 split. This method may be preferred when you are testing two versions of an altogether new page to the site and not changing an existing one.

A path analysis gives you information on the paths taken throughout your site, by the visitors using it. Path analysis requires a defined start or a defined end point and the number of points, or levels, from or to, your defined start or end points.

Scenario Analysis is a much stronger version of path analysis. In scenario analysis, all points on the path (typically to a desired conversion point), are defined. Defining every step in the scenario, allows you to identify “fall off” points, which can provide insight into areas needing improvement in order to increase conversion rates.

Scenario Analysis reports are typically referred to as Conversion Funnels.

Organic Search is the use of Search Engine assets that are not reserved for Paid Search Campaign Efforts. Using Google as an example, the links not identified as “Sponsored Links” on a search results page, are attributable to the organic search reports in analytic reporting tools.

Paid Search is attributable to the areas on Search Engines results pages reserved for paid advertising (Google’s Sponsored Links).

SEO, Search Engine Optimization, is the process of making changes to your website with the end goal of raising your website’s organic search ranking.

SEM, Search Engine Marketing, is the process of marketing your site through use of Search Engines. This effort includes SEO and paid search campaigns.

Content Groups and Sub Groups are aggregates of your website’s pages into roll up categories. They allow you to organize your sites content into smaller groups or segments to provide a higher level viewing of how effective “areas” on your site are performing in driving visitors toward defined goals or conversion events. Underperforming areas can be targeted for improvement.

Most Recent Campaign will identify the most recent external campaign that drove a visitor to your site. The key difference between the uses of Most Recent vs. Same Visit lays with your sites defined conversion events.

With Same Visit, the defined conversion event must occur in the same visit that was initiated through an external campaign. With Most Recent, the conversion event can take place on a subsequent visit and the campaign will still get credit for the conversion, provided it was the Most Recent campaign that brought the visitor to the site.

The number of times an advertsing asset, typically a banner image or text link, is presented to a visitor.

A click through rate is the number of time visitors clicked on a presented Ad Impression. Click through rates tell you how well your asset performs in initiating or maintaining visitor engagement.

A page tag is a block of code leveraged for gathering data for capture in an analytics tool. Typically, a page tag is javascript code that is executed initially when a web page loads and subsequently when pre-defined page based events are triggered (Clicking a link to download a file, for example).

A META Tag is HTML placed on a web page for the purpose of gathering data. META tags are not visible to the end user, but are leveraged to provide customized data identifiable by the Page Tag, who gathers it and sends it to the Web Analytics Data collection repository.